Rukayat Omolola, an informal trader in the Bodija axis of Ibadan sells beverages, groceries and other everyday essentials. According to her, she has been into the trade for as long as she can remember, “I grew up helping my mother attend to customers in her retail store in Gbagi, Ibadan. My grandmother was also a trader so I can say it runs in the family.
“At the age of 12, my mother had no problems leaving the shop in my care. I do help out after school while she takes time off to prepare dinner. She set aside Saturdays as market days, so I can stay in the shop while she goes to the market to restock,” she said. Rukayat said she learnt a lot growing up at her mother’s shop, and she easily took to the trade after her marriage.
Goods distribution and supply has been a protracted issue in the Nigerian retail sector. A typical market day is tedious for a retailer, and could take a whole day for some. This tends to have an effect on their sales, as they close shops and lose customers in the process. Rukayat’s mother had to fix Saturdays as market days in order to keep her shop open throughout the week while her children were in school. “I faced the same challenges. In my own case, I have no one to help stay in the shop. My children are still kids. So I do pick one of the week days as my market day.
“Sometimes I spend four hours in the market to get my goods. I get home tired; would still have to take care of the children and prepare dinner for the family. At times I close shop for that day. But last year, I was introduced to an app that allows me to order my goods online and get them delivered at my shop,” she said.
Like Rukayat, thousands of informal retailers are having better business experiences thanks to b2b e-commerce companies who are reshaping the sector. In the last three years, brands like Alerzo and others have been deploying technology to connect retailers with manufacturers and distributors across the country. “I started ordering on the Alerzo app last October. Since then, I’ve not visited the market.”
With a marketplace at their fingertips, many informal retailers can afford frequent shopping without physical stress. According to the Alerzo website, retailers can also order products via SMS, voice and WhatsApp and get delivery to their stores in less than 10 hours. This also affords retailers more time for family and relations activities.
Rukayat said she’s been able to save more on the cost of transportation and has recorded more profit since she started ordering inventory online. For Rukayat and others like her, it’s a new world of ease and possibilities; thanks to b2b e-commerce.